“I always thought palliative care meant preparing to die – not figuring out how to live.  It is a relief to talk to people who focus on the whole me, not just my disease.  They help me and my family and friends make the most of our time together.”

Palliative care specializes in the relief of the pain, symptoms and stress of any serious illness.  As you journey through treatments and daily life, you will call upon many types of palliative practices so you are able to do the things that are important to you.  Traditional medical treatments, complementary therapies and other physical, emotional, social and spiritual activities that support you in daily life are all part of palliative care.  Importantly, palliative care is personalized and takes into account your values, your wishes and your approach to your diagnosis.  Studies show that those who include palliative care in ongoing cancer treatment not only enjoy better quality of life, but also may live longer.

Often, people think of palliative care as end-of-life (or hospice) care.  End-of-life care does include palliative care activities, but palliative care is appropriate at any point in dealing with metastatic breast cancer.  You may rely on palliative practices while you are in active treatment and incorporate them into your daily living. They may help with pain management. Palliative care does not replace regular medical care, but it does help you manage the burdens that you are carrying.

Your palliative care team of doctors, nurses and social workers is a lot like your treatment team, but with expertise in palliative care. Chaplains, massage therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists and others might also be part of your team.  They specialize in the relief of pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness. Their goal is to improve the quality of life for you and your family. The team provides you with:

  • Expert treatment of pain and other symptoms
  • Help communicating clearly and concisely with your care team, family and friends
  • Help navigating the health care system
  • Guidance with difficult and often complex treatment choices

Many community agencies and support centres offer palliative practices such as yoga, and meditation, often free of charge. Call Willow for help understanding more about palliative care as part of your plan and how to access palliative care services where you live.

Palliative care is not only end-of-life care 

Palliative care is care you undertake to make sure you have the best quality of life now.  Hospice care (or hospice palliative care) is treatment to control pain and other side effects to give comfort towards the end of life.  Choosing palliative care does not mean you are giving up; it means that you are choosing to have the best quality of life possible in this moment.